Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Paul Newman

A sad day indeed, goodbye Paul Newman, my mother's husband in reserve. A great actor, humanitarian and all around hottie for the ages....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Common Ground Fair

It's a big place !

The first thing you better do, is study where you what you want to see and do. There are the usual farm fair sections which celebrate the harvest and the animals on the farm,

but there are also lots of other areas to investigate. There's a Social & Political Action area,alternative energy is represented, you can watch stone workers, learn about woodlot management and how to work with oxen. There are poetry readings, Reiki and herb healing, environmental concerns are addressed and don't forget the children's parade, where they all dress as vegetables ( organically grown, of course - the fair is put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners' Association, after all.)
Best of all ( almost ) are the many workshops. We learned what needs to be done in the fall and winter garden , how to raise beef on grass, and took a terrific workshop in Making Sourdough bread.

This is the wood-fired outdoor oven which was built by the instructor and which I want to build when I get home.

Her dough is rising in a nifty basket made of willow

here you can see the spiral pattern of the basket before the loaf is put into the oven

Voila, beautiful, crusty loaves, fresh from the wood-fired oven !
We learned so much today and enjoyed being with so many congenial people - where else can you sit down with 6 strangers to eat lunch and have a spirited political discussion where everyone agrees with each other ? Only at the Common Ground Fair here in Unity, maine !

Thursday, September 18, 2008

6:30 AM

Yup, still there...

Just checking ....

Midnight Update

We just refueled after a long and tiring day.

Here are the results of the day - hers is red, his is yellow. What's on the top of your car ???

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We came, we saw and we had a terrific time. The Book Barn in Niantic is definitely worth a trip ! There's not only a huge barn full of books, there are also numerous outbuildings (as you can see above in the bosky dell - yes, the bosky dell. This is a literary post, after all. ) These outbuildings house more books, of course, in every genre under the sun, 350,000 books to be precise. If you don't find a book to please you here, you're a hopeless case.
We found lots to please us - see bookstack above. And just in case you feel faint after perusing all those books, there are lots of nooks and crannies - inside and out - where you can sit down with a cup of tea and some cookies to revive you , all courtesy of the management.
Combine all of the above with a perfect early fall day of blue skies, sunshine and just enough nip in the air to require a light sweater and you have the beginning of a great vacation.

Hawaii 2008 - Final Thoughts

Kahlua Pig here.

As the Mrs. and I finally settle into the groove of our lives here on the East Coast, a perspective on our recent Hawaii vacation slowly emerged and presented itself. Much like the winds and waves that build and swell to epic proportions in that part of the world, our perspective only revealed itself when enough time had passed - revealing itself with sudden clarity and refreshing insight.

A few years ago, my Auntie Luz once joked that the Mrs. and I had an uncanny way of travelling outside of NYC, whenever disaster seemed to strike the Big Apple. When we realized that we were out of Manhattan during 9/11 and the New York Blackout, her remark turned out to be pretty on point. With the recent turmoil in the financial markets, my Auntie Luz's words hearken to me yet again: "REMIND ME TO CALL MY TRAVEL AGENT NEXT TIME YOU'RE OUT OF TOWN!"

The collapse of financial giants Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG within TWO WEEKS of each other is as unfathomable as they come. As of this writing, Morgan Stanley is in merger talks with Wachovia, and WaMu is said to be next on the list of giants to fall. Many questions, few answers, much confusion, little clarity. An interesting experience for two New Yorkers who just spent time in an island paradise that is as far away from all of this as the North Pole is from the South Pole.

Today, while on break from my job as a personal trainer at Equinox, I found myself yearning for food I had enjoyed in Hawaii. With a time-crunch, hunger, and anxiety all swirling within me and around me, I found myself inside a McDonald's, eating a double-quarter pounder with medium fries. A McDonald's staple for most. The food wasn't bad; I just wish it came with a breeze and a view of the ocean.

And that's when it came to me - why we miss Hawaii so. The quarter-pounder and fries that I was eating as a late lunch was a brand standard PRODUCT that could be found in ANY McDonald's, in ANY location worldwide. The people behind the counter didn't even MAKE that food! Even if they tried, they couldn't put one of those things together from scratch.

The meals we had in Hawaii, from the deep-fried malasadas, the unforgettable poi, the fresh spring rolls, the butter-garlic shrimp at Kahuku's...were made and cooked by people who still understood that food is a basic human need that requires care and attention. They understood that the process of making food needed a HUMAN touch in order for it to have sustenance for the body and the soul. We didn't just "ingest" - we really ate and really experienced. We weren't just "sold" a product - we were really fed and nurtured. How many "mom and pop" stores did the Mrs. and I eat from, whose owners probably don't even have 401k's in these once majestic financial institutions, whose only real investment is in the basic human experience of making food that people are actually nourished by?

We are people living with other people. When people forget to consider others, they forget the process that feeds and nourishes our very humanity. Had the wealthy leaders of these financial institutions, the manufacturers of this financial debacle, only remembered that they were dealing with families (not borrowers), homes (not securitized loans), and personal accountability (not risk management) happy-meal experience at McDonald's would have been as undisturbed as the ones I had with my wife while in Hawaii, as we sat by the beach eating fresh Vietnamese sandwiches, watching the volatile waves roll on the shores of Sandy Beach.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Guess where I will be tomorrow ? Right here !! I'm still fighting the heat thing, but I will not be stopped and I intend to have a wonderful time. Care to join me ?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Ms. RFD is laid low by heat prostration - sunstroke - heat exhaustion - call it what you will, it's unpleasant to the max and I am annoyed with myself for not paying attention to what my body was telling me yesterday.

I was out on the tractor, mowing the pastures one last time before winter, and just wanted to finish and yes, I was wearing a hat, drinking lots of water, wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and thinking cold thoughts, but the sun was stronger than all of the above and here I am, headachy, nauseous, irritable and miserable.

I feel one with the mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the mid-day sun...when will I ever learn ?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ono Kine Grindz

It's only fitting that we end our odyssey of Hawaii with our last dinner at Ono's, a traditional Hawaiian restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue. Ono is derived from the Japanese and means "good." Kine means "kind of" and Grindz refers to the mastication of kine ono food like kalua pig! Which is exactly what we ate. Above you will see the charming hand made sign outside Ono's tiny place. We (KP, me and KP's bf from 8th grade, the witty Kemo) did indeed form a line to the right and no get mad and no huhu (as in "boo hoo" i hate standing in line.) The toothless waitress informed us that there was only one dish of laulau left and "she save it for us, you want?" To which Kemo replied yes - he was bringing it home for his wife. Nobody ever explained to me what laulau is but I gather it is pretty important since the moment the waitress brought it out all bundled up I was required to hide it on the cracked leather booth seat next to me so the other patrons would no get mad, no huhu.
KP and I ordered the kalua pig -- a succulent shredded pork which can be seen in the middle photo. Accompanying the piggie is a purple bowl of poi which is taro root mashed and blended. It has the consistency of yogurt and tastes tangy and sour. KP ate a large bowl, but I couldn't handle it because it makes your mouth really tingle. The sides that come with the pig are salsa of tomatoes and slices of raw onion which cut through the oiliness of the meat and are delicious together. You will also see some dark purple meat which was salty, peppery and cured. Kemo informed me that I shouldn't leave any behind because it was very expensive. And tasty! For dessert you will see haupia - a white jello-like sweet brick to the left of the shredded pig.
All in all a very satisfactory end to our grand tour of Oahu's food haunts. They can take the Garcias out of Hawaii, but they can't take the Hawaii (all those ono grindz) out of the Garcias. At least, not until we've completed many kettlebell workouts, cardio sessions and eating of boring vegetables.

Go Reindeer! I mean THUNDER!

Today was R's first day of soccer!  She is now on Team Thunder, a part of the Mt. Washington Soccer League.  Not knowing what to expect, we met R's friend Avie and her family at their house and walked to the field.  The place was JAM PACKED with children and their parents, I swear there were at least 300 children there, and although the weather was overcast when we left the house, it turned brutally humid and sunny - agh.  Somewhat overwhelming for me, but R just followed me to her team gamely and stood there while I tried to figure out what to do and who to talk to.  Her coaches, Gero and Whitney were very nice and we got our jerseys (she is #5!) and a pair of blue socks.  Our colors are white, with blue writing.  Her friend Avie was on a different team, Team Heat, and although R didn't know a soul on her team, she went out there and did so well!  My "shy" child is actually really brave!  At her first water break, R came over to me and said "Mommy, I did really well.  I listened when they told me not to touch the ball with my hands and I ran all the way without touching it!"  and then a few minutes later (whispered to me, so as not to hurt any feelings) "Mommy, everyone else forgot and touched the ball with their hands, I was the Only One who didn't!"  It was so sweet!  Never mind the fact that she beat everyone in drills because she took off running without her ball (slows you down, duh) and when the ball literally rolled across her feet in the scrimmage against Team Crunch, she looked around like, "shouldn't someone be running after this ball?"  So far, so good.  At least she got out there and tried her best and she really listened to every word the coach said and paid attention - and had fun!  As we were walking back to Avie's house she said, sort of confidentially, "Mom, I think we won" with a knowing look on her face.  Baby brother W, on the other hand, was not at all thrilled to be there and kept yelling: "no more soccer, no soccer!" when he wasn't cheering for his sister.  It was so hot and I was totally unprepared - no sunscream (what W calls it) no snacks, nothing to sit on and only a travel mug full of hot tea.  When it was finally over and we were on our drive home there was silence in the back seat and I almost thought he had fallen asleep, when out of nowhere I hear, at top volume, "GO REINDEER!"  At least he's supportive!  Hopefully my camera will be fixed by next week and I'll have some actual pictures of Team Thundering Reindeer.

Friday, September 12, 2008


'Tis I, Kahlua Pig, once again.
So...what are we looking at exactly? This is Ahi Poke ("A-hee POKE-kee"). This dish is, perhaps, one of the most coveted island delicacies in all of Hawaii. The ingenuity of the dish is in the simplicity of the ingredients: chunks of "ahi" (tuna), "limu" (local seaweed), a dash of rock salt, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil, and you have what is arguably the most delicious island meal known to locals and tourists alike.
My favorite place to get this has always been at the Foodland at Ala Moana. At $9.99 a lbs., it's worth every scrumptious, fresh bite! I remember, when I left for the Mainland back in 1993, how heartbroken I was to leave behind one of my favorite dishes. Literally heartbroken (or "tummy broken", as Emlyn would say).
Ahi Poke, for me, represents my journey in Hawaii. When I first tasted Ahi Poke, I wasn't sure what to make of it. It's freshness and simplicity baffled me. "What is this?", I asked. The minute I heard "raw fish", my 12 year-old sensibilities made me gag. How could ANYONE eat this???
But despite my initial revulsion, I found myself being drawn to it again and again. Through my teenage years, this was my favorite local dish. When I left Hawaii for the East Coast, I knew I'd miss this dish most of all.
Much like Hawaii itself, it is fresh, original, bold, and laid-back...qualities that, to the uninitiated, can be off-putting at first. When we realize that our reaction is based on our own inhibitions, our own timidness, and simply allow ourselves to "hang loose", as they say in the islands, we find ourselves...enjoying ourselves. The rich flavors of ahi poke, or a simple breeze from the Pacific, or some distant moonlight that illuminates what seems like a hidden path underneath the dark waves...what majesty we find 0n a rock formed by a volcano in the middle of the ocean.
A majesty that we cannot explain to others who have not experienced it for themselves.
So it is my hope that with these pictures, you can sense one of my beloved foods of all time. Raw tuna, seaweed, and aloha spirit: Ahi Poke.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Love of My Life

This is Rolando (aka "Kahlua Pig"). Here, on our last day of our wonderful vacation here in Hawaii (Nei), Meg and I had a chance to reminisce about our recent adventures in Paradise. We remembered how we first flew over the Pacific, how the sun sets playfully over the horizon, our round-the-island trip that had stop-overs in majestic Waimea, and how we ate the delicious local food.

The mountains, the beaches, the cooling valleys, the humbling surf...Meg seems saddened to leave. She wonders how I can keep my good spirits, knowing we're leaving behind a true wonder of nature that we mortals are lucky to have.

What she doesn't know is that, for me, all this beauty can be had when I simply look at her: my beautiful wife of 9 years. The warmth of the ocean is in her smile, the mystery of these mountains in her eyes, the promise of paradise is always nearby when I hear her call my name, when I hold her close in my arms.

The skies here are somewhat overcast, and I hear there will be showers. I head to the beach regardless.

My wife is my sunshine when she smiles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

18 is the Magic Number

We came to Hawaii-ne for Number 18. Discovered by my mother in law in 1992 and subsequently eaten every single day by said mil for 6 MONTHS. It's that good, people. Seriously. It contains - BBQ beef thinly sliced and marinated in something succulent, beef egg rolls fried but not too heavy, cold rice vermicelli noodles, the ubiquitous julienned carrots, daikon radish, shredded lettuces, whole stalks of cilantro and mint leaves, fried shallots. To the left is the sauce bowl with some type of light oil and rice wine vinegar and ? It's a mystery. You have to wait for 18. They make it fresh when you order. It is worth the wait. Sit back, have an iced vietnamese coffee and some chilled shrimp summer rolls to dip in peanut sauce. The 18 will come. And when it comes, pause and smile as Mrs. NYC does above. Then, as Kahlua Pig demonstrates, pour your sauce into the bowl, mix like crazy with chopsticks and eat. Let the spring rolls sink to the bottom. They will soak up all of the savory sauce so that your last bite is even better than the first. How many dishes have you had that can claim they get better as you eat them? That is the magic of number 18.
On a side note, the original owners of Saigon Grill sold to new management somewhere around 2005. When we came to the restaurant on this trip and flipped open the menu we were perplexed to see that No. 18 was no some kind of Pho. What the #%#? Our waiter quickly reassured us that new management had not done in the 18. All the dishes had been reassigned new numbers. 18 was now 81. Does that make it Great? Or Taerg?

Got $700,000?

The lovely neighborhood of Hawaii Kai may be our future home.....we just fell in love with this little collection of condos surrounding a marina. In the lowest picture you see the approach to the neighborhood off of the highway. It is only a short 5 minute drive from Sandy beach. The condos are tucked off the main road and very quiet. You can dock your boat outside your front door and still you are only 10-20 minutes away from the center of downtown. The location is tremendous. Beach front property! In Paradise! Contributions happily accepted to the Garcia family retirement fund.

This visit brought to you by The Luz

Last night we went to Auntie Luz's beautiful house off the Pali highway way up in the mountains in the Nu'uana valley. Up here it is at least 10 degrees cooler than down by the beach in Waikiki. Cool breezes blow constantly and it is very lush and rainforesty as you can see in the photo we took of me on the street outside her house. The next photo is of the outside of her home. We brought her a Coach bag to thank her for letting us stay in the Banyan. I hope she really liked it - last time we visited we also gave her a Coach and she loved it. Filipinas love their brand name luxury accessories, so it was a safe bet. We had a big dinner and the last photo is of the majority of the family members present (there were actually more people but they couldn't fit in the frame.) This photo is of all the people who live in the house plus KP. The two men in the center in blue and red are Glenn and George, Auntie Luz's sons. Auntie Luz is on the right. The sons are holding their children and to the far left are their wives, Julie and Isa? sp?

Boogie Boarding and Body Surfing

These are pictures of the boogie and body surfers who are catching some morning waves at Sandy Beach, Mrs. NYC's favorite. The athleticism of these guys is really impressive. Can you tell that the face of those waves is at least 5 feet? The force of the water landing on top of you when you get to the bottom of the wave must be incredible. The surfers wear flippers so that they can kick into position quickly. To body surf they point one arm straight down the wave and go head first with their feet in the air. We saw more than one go head over heels in the white water as a wave pulled back from the shore. Kahlua Pig and I bought a boogie board with hopes of riding some baby waves at Waikiki beach, but the waves there are so mild that nothing happened. We will leave it behind in the condo for the next vacationers to enjoy. I want to take a surfing lesson tomorrow before we leave, but KP says play it by ear in case we are tired. No use sitting on a 10.5 hour flight if you are injured.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ba Le Sandwich

Once again, the images should be viewed from the bottom scrolling up to the top - for dinner on our way home from the North shore yesterday we decided to pick up two tasty Ba Le sandwiches. This Vietnamese chain is all over Honolulu and has screamingly fresh meat, cheese and veggies in all of their sandwiches. We got two of the "specials" -- pork meat steamed, pork pate, head cheese, fresh cilantro, marinated carrots and daikon radish julienned all a top a freshly toasted and baked that morning baguette. You can see photos of the sandwich at the top of the post. Just the thing to eat when you're hungry, but not too hungry and a hearty sandwich fits the bill. We like to drink iced vietnamese coffee with condensed milk - Kahlua Pig is holding up his caffeinated goodness in the first pic. If you don't fancy staying up late from a caffeine buzz you can order an iced Lilikoi passion fruit juice or passion fruit guava juice - much tastier than a revolting Diet Coke. If you have a hankering for dessert then you can have a cup of tapioca pearls with taro pudding or coconut pudding, perhaps lychee or azuki bean? can you spot the rainbow jello cups in the case? very old school and i'm sure would be pleasing to any accompanying Piglets. So much food, so little time....

Monday, September 8, 2008

The North Shore

These photos (which should be viewed from the bottom to the top) are our day today on the North shore - home of big wave surfers, Shrimp trucks and all things rustic and relaxing. The first photo of red earth is taken outside the fields of the Dole Plantation. The next photo is the breathtaking view when you first glimpse the ocean on the windward side. We went into a little hamlet to the famous Matsumoto shave ice store. Shave ice is very fine and fluffy and served either with flavored syrup in a paper cup or with the addition of ice cream and azuki beans on the bottom. Kahlua Pig opted for coconut, lihingmoey and lime on top of ice cream and azuki beans. Mrs. NYC got green apple, strawberry and bubblegum. Thus refreshed we continued on highway 83 (which runs right by the water) to the gorgeous Waimae Bay. You can see the pic from the highway that takes in the whole bay. The parking lot is tiny so we had a little walk down the narrow highway to the beach. This is the beach where all the famous surfers come in December to catch the biggest waves on Oahu. In September it is like a very friendly bathtub. KP is shown resting from the exertion of a dip while in the background people frolic. After two hours of bathing and admiring tourists jumping off the big rocks in the distance, we had worked up an appetite. We proceeded down the highway to the famous Shrimp Trucks. There used to be only one original truck, Giovanni's - but now competitors have sprung up like toadstools. We went to a new truck and you can see Mrs. NYC posing holding her ticket for two plates of butter garlic shrimp with a side of local corn on the cob. I had to wear that silly blue shirt over my bathing suit as I have unusually shaped sunburn on my chest from a washed off sunscreen situation at Waikiki beach. Disregard the lumpy shirt. Focus on the gleeful smile and the delicious buttery shrimp with CHUNKS of fresh garlic. Outstanding. The rest of the afternoon was spent meandering down the highway for home. KP took some amazing photos out of the passenger side window. He may have an alternate career here. The last photo is his work - the mystical Valley of the Temples wreathed in clouds and sudden strong showers where the air is so humid you can taste the jungle leaves. All in all a very satisfactory touristy day. More to come........